Proverbs are popular sayings that offer a bit of wisdom—sometimes a truth so obvious that it's overlooked.
If you really want to let your language skills shine, knowing some popular German proverbs is a good place to start. Of course, it will also help you to mix better with the local Germanslearn about their culture!
In Germany, a wide range ofwise saying--whether we're talking about lots of sausages, some bears and bunnies running around the woods, or something serious and esoteric-sounding!
As we say, "There's never been a better time." Let's get started. These thirty popular German proverbs will add variety and color to your speech, so that even the locals will mistake you for one.
- → By the way, you might also like our glossaryBasic idioms that make you sound like a native speaker!
Table of Contents
- 6 funny German proverbs
- 8 German proverbs about food and drink
- 6 German proverbs about nature
- 10 beautiful and wise German proverbs
1. 6 funny German proverbs
Let's face it, the Germans aren't the most humorous people in the world...although I can assure you they have somequite funnySayings they love to use!
“laughter is the best medicine,” we say in English, so let's start with some light-hearted German sayings and idioms!
Who rests, rustles.
Verbatim translation:A resting man will rust.
English equivalent:You doze, you lose.
True to their engineering and car building reputation, when the Germans get lazy or inactive... they get rusty! This will make it harder to start being productive again.
Bent wood also lit a straight fire.
Verbatim translation:Bending wood can also make a fire.
if you feel cold during this timewinter in Germany, a bent beam makes...no need to find the perfect one. So stop chasing perfection and use what you have!
The devil's favorite piece of furniture is a bench.
Verbatim translation:The devil's favorite piece of furniture is a bench.
English equivalent:Never leave until tomorrow what you can do today.
In German, to put something "on the bench" means to put it off until later. This proverb tells us to be carefulSkip action, because you don't want to mess with the devil's favorite furniture!
It also has an alternate version, closer to the English version:Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today.(Literally: "What can be done today, do it tomorrow.")
He himself is that person. / Ego is a woman.
Verbatim translation:The ego is human. / Ego is a woman.
English equivalent:Do it yourself, have it yourself.
If DIY is your thing, this is the saying for you. Tell yourself (or a friend) when you've accomplished something without anyone's help. This is very powerful!
I have such a tie. / My neck is so (thick).
Verbatim translation:I'll get a tie like that! / My neck is so (thick).
English equivalent:This really annoys/makes me angry!
Both variations are usually accompanied by the gesture of placing the hand on one's own neck.
Apparently in Germany you get a tie or a thick neck when something annoys you. Personally, I understand the comparison…do you?
fall in love.
Verbatim translation:Dump your ears for love!
English equivalent:Obsessed with love.
Simply replace the head and heel on both ears, meaningyou found someone very special!
2. 8 German proverbs about food and drink
Food might not be the first thing on your mind when planning a trip to Germany, but the country has a lot to offerFood cultureSame as everywhere else in Europe.gourmet madThe taste is delicious and authentic, and each region is different.
As you can imagine, you'll find plenty of sausage-related idioms. But you'll also find German food proverbs talking about biscuits, soup and (of course) beer!
Play offended liver.
Verbatim translation:Come to beat the liver and intestines.
This one might actually be in the previous section, but here it is: If you're acting like an offended gut, it means you're throwing a tantrum or overreacting to something. The good news is that being called liverwurst can make you forget what you're talking about and laugh about it!
Hunger comes with eating.
Verbatim translation:Appetite occurs when you eat.
According to this saying, you don't realize how hungry you are until you start eating. But this saying applies to other things as well. Do you want to e.g. want to learn German but don't feel the itch?Start learningThe appetite is coming!
Take the sausage off the bread
Verbatim translation:Let someone else take the sausage off your bread
This is a warning to stand up for yourself. Don't let anyone take the sausage off your bun. You are too good to be taken advantage of.
It has nothing to do with me.
Verbatim translation:That's sausage for me.
I warned you about the sausage content, so don't complain. If something is "your sausage" it means you don't care about it! (Which is strange since Germans seem to care a lot about sausages...)
change the subject
Verbatim translation:Talk about hot soup/porridge
English equivalent:change the subject
So what do you do when the soup is hot and you can't eat it yet? This phrase is used when someone keeps talking and doesn't get to the point.
you are annoying.
Verbatim translation:You ate my cookie.
English equivalent:You make me sad.
Use this phrase when someone annoys you like you're eating a cookie and they're trying to take it out of your hands!
It's not my beer.
Verbatim translation:It's not my beer.
English equivalent:It's none of my business.
Use this phrase when you don't want to get involved in something that doesn't concern you. Not your beer, not your problem!
Service is service and gin is gin.
Verbatim translation:Work is work and wine is wine.
Germans are known to be very hardworking...but without a mixture of business and pleasure! Everything has its time. So work hard and play hard!
3. 6 German proverbs about nature
If you have ever been to Germany, you know that the locals are very fond ofspend some time in nature.It is reflected in the sayings they use in their daily lives.
Bears, horses, rabbits and forests... here we come!
Da stept der Bär.
Verbatim translation:Bjorn came over.
you can use this phrase when referring to afirmYou really want to go. If even the bear starts dancing, it means that it will be good! Be careful though, as it is often used satirically!
If the rider is bad, it is the horse's fault.
Verbatim translation:If the rider is bad, it is the horse's fault.
English equivalent:A bad worker always blames his tool.
People who don't do a good job will always try to blame external circumstances (in this case the poor horse) instead of acknowledging their own lack of skill.
If you hunt two rabbits at the same time, you get nothing.
Verbatim translation:A person chasing two rabbits at the same time will also not be able to catch.
English equivalent:A man chasing two hares catches neither.
Focus on one task at a time or you'll end up not getting any of them right.
Don't worry about uncooked eggs.
Verbatim translation:Don't worry that no eggs have been laid yet.
English equivalent:Don't cross the bridge until you get to it.
In other words, don't worry about problems until they arrive. Whether it's an egg or a bridge, calm down for a moment.
You can't see the forest for the trees.
Verbatim translation:You can't see the forest for all the trees.
Here is something likeZenProverb: "A wise man points at the moon, a fool looks at his finger." Look further, look further! Also, don't overthink it; look what's there, it's obvious!
Trees don't grow to the sky.
Verbatim translation:No tree grows to heaven.
This German proverb suggests that there are natural limits to growth and improvement. So actually,Noreach for the sky...
4. 10 beautiful and wise German Proverbs
This is the longest list, so let's face it: Germans are pretty smart. Yes, they like to be funny sometimes, eat and drink and spend time in nature. But when it comes to philosophical statements, they have no match!
After all,German philosopherThinkers are some of the most famous people in the world. It's easy to see why if they grew up repeating these beautiful German sayings.
Let's take a look at some of these German proverbs and what they mean in English. (Although they sound smarter in German!)
Every start is hard.
Verbatim translation:Every start is hard.
This one is self-explanatory: it can be very difficult at first, but it gets easier.
Getting started is easy, persistence is an art.
Verbatim translation:Getting started is easy, persistence is an art.
Well...Obviously starting can be the easy part and sticking with it can be the hard part. Let's say it depends on the situation!
You have to go with the flow.
Verbatim translation:You have to go with the flow.
We all know that life never turns out exactly as we expect it to. So relax and try to accept whatever happens. Make the most of it instead of always wishing things were different.
Practice makes perfect.
Verbatim translation:Practice makes perfect.
English equivalent: practice makes perfect.
Practice, practice, practice! This is the only way to master almost anything.
Whoever can say a must also say b.
Verbatim translation:Whoever says A must also say B.
If you promise to do something,go all out!
Actions speak louder than words.
Verbatim translation:Actions speak louder than words.
English equivalent:Actions speak louder than words.
In German, actions do not necessarily speakloudly...they are just more talkative!
Get smart by hurting someone.
Verbatim translation:Mistakes make people wise.
No one likes screwing up, thoughFailure is necessary for learningIf you don't make mistakes, you'll never get better!
The cheapest is always the most expensive.
Verbatim translation:The cheapest is always the most expensive.
It is a philosophical way of inviting you to invest in quality and not just money. If something is too cheap or readily available, it could end up costing you more!
Think before you act.
Verbatim translation:Think before you act.
Smart and clear. Use your brain!
Good things take time.
Verbatim translation:Good things take time.
If you are the impatient type, we have bad news for you. The Germans believe that if you want something done, you have to wait. In other words: take your time, enjoy the process, and don't rush!
"All good things must come to an end."
But that's not really the end, is it? havestill much to learnAbout German!
As they say, "practice makes perfect". So keep practicing your German skillsGermanPod101.com! All the features we offer (podcasts, videos with transcripts,dictionary, dictionaries, etc.), you will master this beautiful and interesting language in no time.
Remember: what makes a champion?practice, Aw Aw!
Which of these German sayings or idioms is your favorite and why? Tell us in the comments!
- “Hit two birds with one stone”
- “Once in a blue moon”
- “Let the cat out of the bag”
- “Cry over spilt milk”
“All beginnings are hard.” “He who chases two rabbits at once will catch none.” “Starting is easy, persistence is an art.”What does Ich Kriege so eine krawatte mean? ›
Ich kriege so eine Krawatte. / Ich kriege so (dicken) einen Hals. Literal translation: I get such a tie! / I get such (thick) a neck. English equivalent: It really annoys me / winds me up!What is the German idiom about friendship? ›
Some of the most used proverbs about friendship in German are Freunde erkennt man in der Not (Friends are recognized in need), Guter Freund kommt ungeladen (A good friend comes uninvited) and Ein Freund ist jemand der dich kennt und dich trotzdem liebt (A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same).What is the most difficult word to say in German? ›
1. Eichhörnchen (Squirrel) Although squirrel is also tough to pronounce in English, it's a classic when it comes to difficult German words to pronounce. Many English speakers struggle, and some even consider this the hardest German word to pronounce.What is the easiest German word to say? ›
- Hallo – Hello.
- Danke – Thank You.
- Nein – No.
- Ja – Yes.
- Lecker – Delicious.
- Woche – week.
- Heute – today.
- Morgen – tomorrow.
Gott mit uns ('God with us') is a phrase commonly used in heraldry in Prussia (from 1701) and later by the German military during the periods spanning the German Empire (1871–1918), Nazi Germany (1933–1945), and the early years of West Germany (1949–1962).